After working with Twitter for well more than a decade, I am now making my first personal tweet.
I created my first Twitter account sometime in 2009. It was the same year we launched the first social media agency in Maryland, and a time filled with excitement for the technology that brimmed with promise of opportunity. The technology sector did not dominate the S&P 500 then in the way it does now, and most of the country was still very much reeling from the Great Recession. Outside of maybe California and New York, social media as a business vehicle was still a very foreign concept. We were admittedly kids just hoping for a chance in an economy short on jobs, both unqualified to run a business and uniquely qualified in how social media applications worked. It seemed to be a new frontier for a generation of young folks raised to operate in an economy that had just totally tanked, with tens of thousands of dollars in debt for college degrees not worth more than the piece of paper they were printed on.
Over the next few years, we launched hundreds of social media pages mostly for small businesses. It’s hard to imagine now, but selling social media was a novel concept once and quite the challenge at the time. Nevertheless, we sold countless businesses on the promise of what was to come – a generation of consumers ready to make every buying decision or purchase with the support of social media technology that would empower the little guys. The sale often took entirely too many lengthy discussions explaining how it worked before ever seeing a dollar, and even then not being paid well.
But personally, I never tweeted.
Our predictions of the coming gold rush proved true obviously over the next few years. We stepped out of the way and watched much of it chase by as companies abused and misused the technology as they followed the herd. While it served a purpose for some companies, it seemed to become a tax-like expense on most. We made a calculated decision to remain committed to specific businesses for which “social” could make a practical impact, allowing some serious paydays to pass us by for similar providers who would expensively ramp up to support them and crash and burn as the budgets never justified themselves. In our market, we found our selection profitable and remain successful by our definitions to this day.
All without ever personally tweeting.
At some point, reservations about Twitter I had personally developed became professional as well. It became increasingly clear that Twitter would not be an environment for “the little guys” and would go the ways of Facebook and Google in reducing its utility for small businesses. The overwhelming noisiness, negativity and anonymity created a toxic culture which posed a great deal of difficulty for companies looking to utilize the tool to actually grow their business. Even for paid advertising, it continuously proved a bad bargain compared to the other players. We began openly advising clients against exhausting budgets on Twitter in most cases and stopped offering to support Twitter pages. Somewhere on our company Twitter page, we offered explanations of these difficulties for businesses. We continued to monitor and offer counsel on all of the trends and shifts in technology that continued to appear solely focused on suppressing content and driving particular narratives than amplifying communications and driving opportunities.
One day, our company’s page was unexpectedly suspended. This was early into Twitter’s career of suspending pages, and we were provided no explanation except for that an unidentified Tweet violated community guidelines. The company page tweeted only slightly more than my personal zero tweets. All of our Tweets were professional in nature. Rather than even bother with it further, we simply deleted our account. As a successful social media business ourselves, our Twitter page had that little meaning to us. This was three or four years ago now and it has still never once come up again. That’s how little Twitter meant to us.
However, Twitter was accelerated along the path that Google and Facebook were soon to follow.
We have spent considerable time and resources for our clients in recent years working to overcome all the negative side effects of content moderation. This includes unintentional content suppression due to bad artificial intelligence, predatory reputation schemes that extort businesses or prop up bad actors in rankings, and other damaging features that tilt the scales from the little guys to those with the resources to overcome the Big Tech bureaucratic apparatus.
Then, suddenly everything changed the day Elon Musk bought Twitter and opened up a world of opportunity for these small businesses again – one we’re excited to support. So, I have been following one person on Twitter for the past few weeks as we plan to completely relaunch our business development and marketing efforts for companies that can leverage Twitter.
And, with my first Tweet I would simply announce that for the first time in more than a decade we’re excited to again be working to create opportunities for small businesses in what promises to be a more “free” market on Twitter.